Part 4: OUT THROUGH THE CHIM’NEY WHEREEVER DID WE LEAD
“How is your dinner, Jacob?”
Jacob glanced up, the wind pushing his hair back against his face. His face had been glued to his plate all day, ignoring the sun that cast across his eyes.
His dinner was delicious, he couldn’t deny that. Much better than the food he ate with Edgar and John when they go for the daily meals at the local tavern and inn. Greasy slabs of salted pork with cornbread made from the leftover crops old Louis Gordon’s cows wouldn’t eat. And that was lunch. For dinner was fish hauled from the icebox out back and served with only the cheap liquor to drink. Jacob liked eating there, he wasn’t some high-class person who picked at every little thing. He ate what he got and it would keep him full. But, he never went there as often as his two friends did.
His dinner here was almost astounding! Served was a large roasted ham, glazed in sweet brown sugars and molasses, cast alongside a large, buttery baked potato and the salad made from only the freshest vegetables that was pulled from the farms down past Redwood. The bottles of Medoc that lay about the intricate centerpiece in the table were still full, all ready to be swallowed down the gullet. They sat on the porch sticking out from the upper study, overlooking the coastal line below.
Montague looked worriedly at Jacob. “Is all well? You’re not coming down with a fever are you?”
“No…” Jacob said. “I’m fine. Just a little tired, that’s all”
Montague relaxed a bit. “Well, eat up, man! A good meal gives you energy! And believe me, energy is the best thing you will need!” he laughed, spilling his wine onto the birch wood floor beneath their feet. “Why, energy for a person is almost as valuable as blood!”
Jacob nodded and went back to eating. In the distance he saw the lonely steeple of St. James’s, Redwood Island’s only church, standing amongst the towering pine trees that dotted the rolling landscape. Something was unsettling about Redwood at night. It was a ghost town now. Almost totally abounded under the fiery cast of the orange sun that set just above the hillside. Jacob could still smell the odor of the gas over here on the overlook of the manor.
“May I…uh…be excused?” Jacob looked up. “I have to get some more salt from the kitchen….”
“Of course! Hurry back!” Montague said. “The flies are starting to circle now!”
Jacob nodded and stood up, walking back though the glass swing door into the hallways.
He just needed to take a walk. Clear his head of concerns and troubles. Montague was a nice man, taking him in and telling him all his wondrous secrets and studies, yes. But….something about Redwood….something about Montague…nothing added up.
As Jacob walked down the corridor, past statues and portraits, Jacob noticed a small door on the left side of the hall. A sign above read: “STUDY”. The door was slightly ajar.
Out of his own morbid curiously, Jacob silently and quickly opened the door. A smell of mothballs struck his nose as he stepped in. The room was dark, lit only by the setting sun. A desk and a bookshelf occupied the lonely room.
There was another cold draft, just like Jacob’s room. No windows open anywhere. No vents leading into the room. But it was still freezing in the room.
Jacob looked at the desk. No use looking at it. The drawers and cover were chained shut, padlock holding the links together. The walls were featureless and bare, all save for a small plaque hung from the wall above the desk.
Jacob stumbled over to look at it. It had Montague’s name written on the bottom of the wooden frame within a bronze rectangle.
“IT IS OUR NOBLEST DUTY TO GIVE OURSELVES ONTO THE CAUSE OF FURTHERING HUMANITY. NO MATTER OF WHAT COST- SIR MONTAGUE NORMAN STEIN”.
Jacob looked over the plague, trying to understand what it meant.
“Give ourselves onto…?” Jacob rubbed his chin. “Odd….”
Then, he heard something echo from within the room. A low hiss of steam from somewhere. Followed by a screech of cogs against metal and a low wet ripping noise.
Jacob jumped and looked out the open door behind him. No one stood there, but his lonely shadow. Frantically he searched for the source of the sounds.
Moving his head back and forth, he noticed the sounds came from his left, near the bookshelf. Slowly, he crept over to it, noticing the sounds of steam and rattling was getting louder.
As his fingers touched the oak shelf, he felt it swing away as if on a hinge. The shelf glided across the carpet, revealing a large black space behind it. Cold air and the sound of machinery echoed from about.
Jacob carefully reached out, feeling nothing but cool air on his skin. It was a type of chute. Like a coal chute they had down in the mines where his cousins worked. A bottomless, deep pit leading to a large area where the coal was held and burned. A smell from earlier, a smell of rot and decay, wafted from the empty dark drop.
Jacob stepped carefully back, pushing the bookshelf back into place. His heart was beating quickly, hands trembling. Something was definitely wrong. Something was indeed.
He scurried out of the study, closing the door behind him. The sun had almost set out, leaving the halls dark and foreboding. Shadows from the statues lining the halls twisted into alien figures as Jacob passed them. He climbed up the staircase back to the porch and tossed open the glass door.
No one was there. Just a bunch of empty plates and a note tucked under a wine glass.
“JACOB, MY APOLOGIES FOR LEAVING YOU WITH SUCH A MESS. BUT I HAD TAKEN THE MOMENT TO CONTINUE WORK ON THE MACHINE. I WILL BE GONE FOR THE NIGHT AND INTO TOMORROW SHOULD THINGS GET DELAYED. PLEASE TAKE THE PLATES TO THE DINING HALL KITCHEN. IF YOU WANT, YOU MAY MEET ME LATER ON.”
Jacob sighed and gathered the plates into his arms. Food scraps stuck to the fine china plates. Wine pooled around the rings of the tall, lanky glasses.
Jacob had a plan. He wanted to find out what was really about Montague and his machine. He had several questions on his mind and he continued to think about as he carried the dishes into the dining hall.
Why was Redwood’s harbors closed off? Where were the people? Why was Montague so obsessed with his machine? Why were there hidden passages throughout the manor?
Jacob walked, head in the clouds, back to his room. He removed his clothes behind the bathroom door and changed into his nightwear before collapsing into bed.
But, who was to say, he slept? Jacob lay in bed, tossing and turning for reason and answers to come into his head.
Then, after what seemed like hours of pondering and rolling, he had an idea.
“Yes.” He said to himself as his eyes slowly closed. “I shall do it tomorrow when Montague is not about”.
And with that, he went to sleep, pulling over the covers to keep warm from the cold air.
Somewhere in the manor, a heavy door slammed shut and footsteps echoed off into the darkness.
Part 4: THROUGH PIPE AND CONDUIT, WE ALL FAT TO BLEED.
Jacob heard the sound of the crash from even within his bedroom. A low thud, like a man falling to the floor.
It sound like it was coming from upstairs. Was Montague back so early? Jacob climbed out of bed, slipping on old shoes to walk across the cold metal floor.
“Montague? Montague!” Jacob shouted, hoping he would get response.
No one answered. In fact, all went silent as soon as he spoke. There was then the sound of hushed footsteps and the sound of something behind dragged across the floor. Jacob believed it was a burglar, come from the empty town to plunder the manor!
Quickly, Jacob grabbed a large wooden cane from the side of the bed, inching slowly to the door. The sound of footsteps from above crossed over his head and then stopped.
“Who goes there?” Jacob said, shouting into the roof. Maybe the thief would hear and, in surprise, flee the manor.
Or at least Jacob was hoping.
The footsteps stopped and then came the sound of a heavy steel door opening, creaking across the floorboards. There was a sound of grunting and then the sound of something heavy being lifted. All sounds stopped a few minutes later.
“Hello?” Jacob’s voice lowered to a hush.
Then, the sound of footsteps came again, quickly and frantically. They ran over his head again and then seemed to get a lower. Somewhere, a door flung open and in the corner of his eye, through the window, Jacob could see a lanky figure dash across the night and out of sight.
“Hey!” Jacob gained courage and ran towards the window. “Stop!”
Jacob pushed open the window, the clattering of the shutters stopped the figure. It looked back at Jacob before running into the forest.
“I’ll have to stop him….” Jacob thought, running towards the door, cane in hand. He was almost to the door handle when he heard the wet splat behind him.
He turned, seeing the bookcase swung open. A huge fat wild hog lay unmoving amidst the new passage. Blood was pouring in streams down its body. It seemed like it was recently dead.
“What in the hell….?”
Jacob walked over to it, poking it gently with the stick. It didn’t react. Blood poured out more as he poked it.
He walked over, hoping to view the nature of the pig’s death. Maybe get a reason why it was in his room inside the manor late at night. As he grabbed the foot, the room began to shake violently.
Pictures on the wall fell to the floor, frames breaking away. The mattress on the bed fell to the side. The pig’s heavy body jerked forward, pulling Jacob with it.
“No…no….no!” Jacob could only stammer before he and the pig’s body slid down the empty chute and into the darkness.
The rattling and shaking slowly died down. It was almost as if it was trying to shake the pig’s corpse back into the chute, letting it fall deeper.
Jacob couldn’t see, but he could feel the pig’s blood run across his clothes. The sound of machinery working got louder as he neared the bottom. And the smell of rot pierced his nostrils even more so. He wanted to scream, but was falling so fast, he feared he would lose his breath and voice altogether.
The last thing Jacob felt on his chest was the pig slamming into it as they hit the floor. A low wet splat followed, blood oozing in rivers everywhere. Jacob wasn’t hurt, but he felt horrible shaking rattle his bones throughout.
“Oh…..” Jacob grabbed his chest, feeling the warm blood down his hand. “My God….what has happened?”
He turned his head slowly, hoping to find where he was. Maybe somewhere like the basement of the manor.
As soon as he turned his head, he really wished he hadn’t.
Bodies. Naked bodies hung from meathooks in perfect lines around him. Men, women, children, hung like cattle, swaying and lurching in front of crashing pistons and spinning flywheels.
On each line, it seemed like it was elevated by pipes under a grated floor. The floor was soaked in blood and entrails. Jacob could swear he saw hands and feet, toes and digits scattered along the line.
His eyes went wide as he saw what happened next.
The line suddenly jerked into motion. A large portly man, eyes closed and face covered with condensation, lurched forward along the line. It swayed eerily as it trundled past his face.
The line picked up speed now. It traveled a bit farther until it suddenly stopped, the body almost flying off.
The sudden jerking from the stop must have set a special set of pressure-driven blades, which jerked out awkwardly to embed themselves into the man’s stomach. There was a wet splat as the knives pierced his skin. Blood, gushing out in rivers, poured out into the grates below.
The line began to start again. The knives, never removed from the man, ripped the man’s stomach open, leaving deep wounds within the stomach cavity. Blood spilled out from the wounds in deep rivers. The skin peeled away, the flesh fell off. Blood and entrails spilled from the cavity, landing in thick splashes on the grated floor.
The man’s body lurched and swayed, intestines hanging from the man like string. It entered a small circular chamber, built of steel and had large pipes running from the bottom, exited into a furnace built at the bottom. The body entered here, blood gathering into the grates below. What seemed to be a series of blades were clamped onto the walls. Each parallel across each other, as if whatever was sent through, the blades could easily remove the limbs, allowing more blood to flow out.
There was a low splat of entrails hitting and sloshing through the pipes, hitting the fires of the furnaces below. It was a draining chamber, to keep organs and the such from clogging the drains.
The body came out, limbless and organless, blood gushing from the stumps. Jagged bones stuck out like grotesques. The body jerked down the line, squelching and gushing.
Foul vapors wafted out from the body as it slid along the line. Jacob could see through the corpse by the massive hole in the center. Clean, but red in color. Flesh hung from the sides like string on a spool. The corpse seemed bloated and wet, like it was in water for some time.
Ahead was the end of the line. A large pit filled with hot coals, fueled by the heat of the immense boilers and engines. The track curved back to the start, ready to pick up another cargo. The grated floor now became a conveyor belt, dumping limbs and feet and hands into the pit. The unwantables of the product
As the body passed, it reached a spot where the walls narrowed a bit. Several spinning gears, each decked with sharp blades, spun wildly through the slots in the walls. As the corpse reached the space, the blades took swift strikes at the blood-soaked torso, slicing off chunks of flesh and bone, landing in thick piles on the conveyor.
The line, hook now carrying the remaining chunk of once a man by a strip of flesh, jerked suddenly before the pit. The force ripped the flesh from the hook, sending it into the hot furnace below. It landed with a dull thud amongst legs and feet and coals.
The hook traveled back around the line to pick up another. As it did, the movement pulled another hook along, this one carrying a large skinned pig.
“Oh….oh dear Christ….” Jacob got to his knees, climbing from the bloody floor to his trembling knees. “What…what the hell is this place?”
Everywhere he looked he saw corpses and machinery. Blood spewing onto walls, floors and other corpses. Steam sprayed from pipes and valves, scalding any corpses that passed through the line.
Jacob got to his bearings and stumbled away as fast as he could, leaping and pushing his way through various corpses. All of them, animal and man, seemed to have been suffocated, faces turned blue, eyes bulging.
Jacob closed his eyes, the smell of rotting corpses filled his nose, the cold air biting his skin. He opened his eyes a bit, seeing a door just ahead of him.
In a burst of energy, his feet waded through the piles of intestines and ribcages split open by unknown hand, he slammed his weight against the door. It flew out from him, sending him crashing to the floor.
Jacob, the fear swelling on his breast, looked up to find his location. He was back in the same hallway he and Montague spent the day in before. The hallway leading to the lighthouse entrance. The hallway with the….
Jacob turned his head and looked behind him. He wanted to vomit, the smell and fear churning his stomach.
The sign above him read: “FUEL STORAGE”
Jacob got to his knees. The sound of footsteps echoed from the wall. Someone had heard the crash and was coming to investigate.
Jacob looked about frantically and took off running. He had to get out. To find help and more importantly, find Montague.
If he could get to the entrance at the lighthouse, he could telegraph Henry at the docks. Or telephone the mainland. They would come with the navy. Guards and militiamen.
The footsteps behind him became louder, picking up in pace. Jacob ran faster, the person behind him speeding up.
“Who are you?!” Jacob turned his head, shouting at the figure behind him. “What do you want?”
Jacob ran faster, breathing growing labored as he raced through the labyrinth machine. “Get away from me!”
He turned his head and threw open a door, expected to see the staircase leading up to the surface. He took one step, one leap forward….
He fell. His feet, rather than be greeted by solid ground, stepped onto the air above the chasm. Jacob didn’t scream. He was too exhausted and scared to do that.
He had no idea of how far he had fallen. Maybe a few feet. Maybe a mile or two. He closed his eyes, waiting to hit the cold rocks below.
There was a splash. Jacob felt warm liquid surging about him. He bobbed his head, trying to get some air. It was thick, smelling liquid. Not water. Not sewage…
The taste of copper….a smell he had picked up before…
Blood. All blood.
Jacob looked about him, the dim lanterns of the tunnel casting some light onto where was.
The river surged about him. Blood seeped into his clothes, his hair, his skin! It filled his mouth and his hands as he desperately clawed for any way out
More blood fell from pipes above. A shadow of a twisted, mangled man cast above him. He was below the draining line. Where the blood was gathered and sent to part unknown….
Jacob couldn’t see or say anything. The fear was too great….
The last thing he saw was Montague standing above the perch.
Part 5: SO WHEN THEY COME O-KNOCKING UPON YE DOOR, TAKE TO YOUR BED, SEE NOT WHAT THEY NEED.
“Jacob? Dear God man, wake up”
Jacob’s eyes slowly opened. His vision was dim, his mouth and tongue dry. He wanted to speak but he couldn’t.
He was in a bed, back up in the manor. A small room with bare furnishings. Only a desk, a chair and the bed Jacob was in.
Montague sat beside him on a chair. His face was scrounged into a worried expression, his hands were wringing.
“Oh, good! You are up!” he smiled at him. “I…apologize for what you have seen…”
Jacob stared lazily at him. He couldn’t speak. His tongue felt heavy. His vision was cloudy.
“Let me explain this, Jacob. I am no madman or anything. What I do is out of scientific expansion, not bloodlust”
Montague took a drink of wine and sighed. “You see….it all started about a year ago....just after I found the old book telling me what I had to do. I was spending weeks trying to formulate the compound to fuel the machinery! A compound strong and mystical enough to allow the equipment I had designed to run properly. Anything else would have been a mere folly…”
“Then, one day, I was working in my study one night when I…” he looked at his hand, almost wistfully. “I cut my hand on a slide….a deep, gushing wound. Blood poured from my hand. In my pain I had not noticed the blood had gathered into my chemical pot. After I bandaged the wound, I set the pot on the burner like I did every other time….this time…it changed.”
Montague’s eyes went wide as he talked. “The chemicals….the signs….how they reacted was something unseen! I saw them combine, fuse and bubble into something unlike any other! It formed this odd colour….a mixture beyond our human senses. Documenting it was impossible! I knew I had my compound. But, I needed more fuel…”
“I found a large hog living just outside in the marshes that had died the night before. Hunters, I believe, shot it. I went out on a midnight excursion and carted the beast back to my home. I stuffed it in a large store room in the attic and drained it using some old needles. I had myself a massive supply of blood, I was for sure the compound would be complete.”
Jacob stared dully into space, drool sweeping from his mouth.
“Oh dear.” Montague paused from his story, helping Jacob up. “Relax. The medicine will wear off soon”.
“Now…where was I? Oh yes! I had the pig blood. But, as I soon discovered, the compound was…well…not yet operational for work. You see, the new compound only allowed the machines to work for quite a bit. Not enough to allow functional power to open the doorway…”
“Then, I had an epiphany! I reasoned, from basic elements on our blood, human’s blood, that was the only true source for the compound! I started off simple. Whenever I got a cut or scarring upon my arms or legs, I would gather my blood into small cups and save it for proper use later. Or, if I desperately needed it, I would inject myself with homemade needles and gather the blood by myself”
He scratched his beard, smirking. “In order to get more blood, I reasoned I could not rely on myself all the time! I needed a…how you would put it….helping hand. But, what was I to do? It would have been foolish to tromp about Redwood asking people to stick out their fingers or arms over a bucket and let me sop up the blood! Then, I had luck come to me in my time of aide! I learned the local hospital….St. Julian’s Infirmary, it is….was asking for a hand in the morgue! Sorting and burning dead corpses to prevent disease from flying about. Typhoid fever or something of the sort…”
“I was ecstatic! Such fools they were, destroying perfectly good sources of study and research! I happily went to work, putting on my white coats and trousers to take notes and cards on the dear unfortunates before me! They didn’t care what I did with half the bodies, as long as they were out of sight. All I had to do was load a wagon out back with the bloated things, cover them with bales of hay and then bring them up to the house during the night.”
“This went well at first, but as you may well know, more vaccines and medicines came out! Many diseases became preventable, so many people stopped dying! The days at the morgue became long, grueling hours as I stayed late at night, picking and taking whatever I could…”
Montague leaned back over on his chair. “I was running low on corpses from the morgue down in Redwood. The men were getting too suspicious of me, asking and paying from my hand for lifeless sacks of men. I needed more blood to keep the machine running! But, I could not use my own! I needed a source! A spring of fuel to drive the engines! And, if luck would have it, I had learned one of my oldest servants…er….Edward was his name…was suffering of heart problems during the night…”
He sighed and sipped from his drink. “So….one cool fall night, I slipped into his chambers, a pillow in hand. I found himself sleeping in his bed and, with great speed, I held the pillow over his face. Now, he struggled, believe me, he struggled! But, it was quick. He lasted only a minute. Then, he just….went to sleep….and I snuck out and did the same.”
“They believed he had went in his sleep from heart failure. I provided him a burial out among the lilies in the garden plot. Beautiful funeral. His coffin on a pedestal above the weeping maids and the butlers. He was a good man. I had nothing against him. But….”
Montague smiled. “We all make sacrifices for the greater good. We all must.”
“Getting him to the machine was easy enough! Days before I built a secret trapdoor beneath the hidden plot I had dug. Thus, when we lowered his coffin, it would fall through the trapdoor and into the arms of the machine. Thus, I was able to carry out my work on him, without being discovered by the servants.”
Montague got up and paced the room, shrugging. “But…things got complicated. The gas we needed for the engines failed…..almost murdered half the men under my wing….and invariably old Edward’s corpse ran dry….we got almost get the doorway open….but, like the dreams I…I mean…we…had of opening it….it faded away before us….a glimpse at the world we could never see…”
A tear seemed to roll down Montague’s cheek. He wiped it off and shook his head. “I had to do something. Time I feared was running out and I needed to finish my works. A few weeks before you came here...an idea entered my head…”
“What if? I asked myself “I was able to gather many people together? Lure people into my presence? Then, I could collect my fuel sources and complete a solution to last me enough time to open the doorway! But how? How could I?”
He gave a wicked smirk at Jacob, kneeling down to poke the fire in the boiler. “I learned the tunnels from my sewer lines ran out into caves above Redwood. And I also learned I could direct the failed gas product into these tunnels and let the vapors disperse over town! So I set about it in secret! I set up special pipelines to run below the sewers and into the caves. I installed fans from the decontamination chambers and cooling sections of the machine to disperse the poisonous gas when ready”
He sat back down, sipping from the wine. “Are you sure you don’t want any of this, Jacob? It helps dull the medicine…”
Jacob didn’t respond. He just stared at him with glassy eyes.
“Well, if you are sure” Montague set the glass down and looked out the window. The sun was rising just above Redwood. The streets were still empty as ever. No birds. No deer. No hogs. No horses. No people. The faint shadow of a toppled carriage lay in the path over the valley.
“It was midnight when everything set into motion. My servants I sent out into town to gather food and supplies, they were foolish enough to listen. The gas- that black-red cloud settled upon the town like a silent visitor….there was no screaming…no yelling….just silence…nothing but the wind blowing into the corroding houses…”
Montague gave a low pause and set his head in his hands. “It was two days later did I decide to go out and gather my flock to my pens. The streets were bare. The timbers of the houses burnt and corroded. People lay in alleys and storehouses, grasping their blue throats and laying in sprawls in the daylight. It was not easy to cart them all up, so I had to bring them back trips at a time and shovel them down those chutes I had installed to dispose them into the line. The line was built days before I set my plan into motion. The servants knew nothing, nor did the engineers. I told some white lies here and there, paid more to keep their mouths quiet and to hang their heads low”
“And then….” He pointed at Jacob. “You came here”. He chuckled a bit. “Truth be told, I had an idea of luring you here to drug you and feed you down the line…but…you…you…”
“You had such passion! Unlike anything I had ever seen! It was only that when I was sampling the blood from your arm that I realized what a fool I was! Why kill of a possible companion on whom we could embark upon? I planned to tell you the secrets soon…but, I guess when you heard me dumping more subjects from the storeroom…you….haha…found it yourself”
Jacob wanted to speak. He wanted to shout. To scream. To yell. But alas, he could not.
“Now, I offer you a chance, Jacob. To join me! Together, we can embark on this new excursion of science! Together, you and I, we may change the world! Steer it upon a new era!”
Jacob didn’t answer. His head slumped to his left elbow and he let out a gurgle.
Montague sighed. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a moist cloth. Jacob would be like this for a bit. The laudanum would be in effect for hours, he was afraid.
He held the cloth to Jacob’s mouth and nose, watching him breath in the chloroform. His breathing became slower…and slower…and slower… and…
Jacob’s eyes closed. His head moved forward, hanging limply over his chest.
“Sleep well. Jacob.” Montague snickered. “You will need it”
As he walked out of the room, he gave a thought. What if Jacob tried to flee? What if he called the local mainland authorities? What would become of them?
Ah well. Montague thought as he shuffled back to his room.
The machine always needed more fuel.
Part 6: OR ELSE YOU SHALL BECOME THE BEAST’S NEXT FEED.
The sudden crashing woke Jacob from his slumber. It started low at first, but it became louder and louder. The electric lights of the manor dimmed and crackled for a moment before returning to normal.
“Montague…?” Jacob’s head felt heavy as he lifted it off the pillow. The medicine was wearing off, but had lasting percussions on his body. His vision was clouding and his limbs were sore.
The room was empty, pale lit by the moonlight from the window. Montague was gone. The madman, the murderer of the innocents, had slipped away like the snake had done after Eve in the garden. Went back to his damned machine probably.
Jacob swung his legs over to the edge of the bed. Standing up proved a challenge. He felt as if he was being weighed down by concrete blocks attached to his back.
Grunting and straining, Jacob managed to balance himself upon his two feet. The room was spinning, geometric shapes flashed before his eyes. Stumbling, he latched onto the bedpost.
A cane, possibly one belonged to one of the late servants, was in a small wastebasket beside the bed. Jacob quickly grasped it, using to balance himself. The alarm clock read 12:34 on the small bedside dressing table.
“God…” Jacob held his head. “How long was I unconscious? Surely a few hours, I hope”
Jacob, using the cane as a sensor, moved down the darkened room. He could still feel the house gently rock side to side. The machine was active. It was growing stronger.
“I have to get back into that machine…..but how?” Jacob thought, pushing open the door. The hallway was lit surprisingly, but plagued by sudden blackouts. A low hum echoed from somewhere in the house.
Jacob limped down the hall, his cane making a dull echoing thud as it hit the rug. He walked past rooms, observing the signs on the doors.
That was it! The study had one of those secret entrances! If Jacob could access it and head down into the machine, he could find Montague!
He turned quickly and, using his cane, pushed open the study door. The room was loud surprisingly and very hot. No lights were on in the room, moonlight casted shadows across the walls.
Steam poured from the cracks of the bookshelf amidst the sound of rattling machinery. The passage was blocked! Jacob would get scalded to death if he dared open the door!
“Damn!” Jacob said, stumbling around the room. “There had to be another way!”
He looked around, only seeing the desk. The cover, once locked, was open. Albeit slightly ajar. Montague was here, probably looking over notes or old documents.
Jacob walked over to it, hoping to find some answers to his troubles. Maybe a key to a hidden door. Or a passage hidden somewhere.
His hands brushed through books and papers. Most were just old files on machinery costs or ancient alchemy books-pages dog-eared and checked with tiny slips of string.
Then, his hand hit a pale green book, knocking it off the desk. It fell to the floor, opening and spilling the contents. Notes and charts scattered across the floor. One in particular was folded up, unfolding as it hit the floor.
Jacob picked it up and looked it over. It was a drawing of the manor, several points of interest were marked off with red blotches. They were markers to different points of access in the machine. At the bottom of the map was a picture of the machine, arrows leading from the markers to the respected locations.
He looked at the map and gave a devilish smile. Now he had access back to the machine. And he knew just where to start
Jacob turned out of the study, walking down the hall, limping as he felt the medicine’s side-effects take hold.
He turned to his left and faced a large wooden oak door, brass handles formed the rings in the center. The sound of machinery was getting louder by the second. The lights dimmed and flickered on and off. The machine was in full swing by now.
With a heavy grunt, Jacob pushed open the door, hearing it crash against the wall
Jacob looked around the room. It was clearly Montague’s bedroom. One could tell by the vast amount of luxuries within the small room. A fine marble and pine desk stood below a bay window, overlooking the small row of forest before it gave way into the coast. The desk was covered in blank stacks of papers and empty inkwells.
Against the wall was a large canopy-covered bed. Jacob could see the canopy extended into the ceiling. The walls were covered in tapestries and paintings, each more exotic and beautiful then the last. Swinging lightly in the center was a candle chandelier, candles aglow in the dark room, casting small rays into the corners. In each corner, Jacob noticed, were 4 individual white pedestals, each topped with a small silver orb.
Jacob looked at the map and nodded. He moved to the first pedestal in the left corner and grasped the small orb, turning it slowly to the left. As he did, he could hear the faint ticking of clockwork gears with in the wall.
There was a low clunking sound and, pushed by a clockwork release mechanism, a part of the ceiling fell open. Following it was a small wooden staircase, landing with a thump on the carpeted floor. A cloud of dust followed suit.
Jacob, using the cane for leverage, pulled himself up the steps. Above was a small room, apparently built in just for the support of the manor. It was not unlike Montague to have repurposed this secret room as a control room to the machine.
Inside the small room was a small set of machinery, most notable was a winch in which a rope coiled about the spool, leading to a series of cables hanging from the ceiling, which rejoined and then split to connect to the canopy of the bed. It was like if someone started the winch, they could lift the bed.
Jacob reviewed the small cluster of machinery before him. A simple electric motor to spin the wheels which in turn would crank the winch to lift the bed.
Jacob grabbed the lever and pulled it forward once, then back again and forward again. The light on the control system flashed green to red and green again. There was a dull cackle of electric circuits and the motor slowly spun to life. The wheels spun like clockwork, turning the winch. The bed seemed to rise up into the attic as the cables, hanging so precariously, did their best to hold the massive bed up.
There was a loud clang and the motor stopped. The bed had now reached halfway up into the attic, swinging eerily back and forth.
“I hope the map was right….” Jacob turned and ducked his head down from the crawlspace, fearing he would have been wrong.
Underneath the bed was a large wooden board, covering up some secret entrance to the machinery below. The ticking of metal and the hiss of steam could be heard from below.
Jacob hurried down the steps and over to the board. Grasping it with all the might he had, he picked up the wooden plank and tossed it over. It landed with a loud crash as it struck the floor.
Under the board was a ladder, extending deep into the abyss below. Strange flashes of light burst from the tunnel. Brilliant white flashes of hot light. A loud bang and the sound of roaring machinery followed.
“The descent begins…” Jacob thought to himself as he positioned himself on the ladder, hearing it creak as his shoes touch the rods. He gulped and shivered, swallowing back his fear.
Slowly, he began to clamber down the ladder, feeling it shake lightly. The candles from above gave Jacob enough light to see where he was going. He climbed a foot down, smelling an odor of oil and some other strange scents he couldn’t place. Steam hissed from below, like snakes waiting for Jacob to land.
As he climbed down two more feet, the house began to shake again. He looked up, grasping the rungs of the ladder and noticed the bed above him swinging faster on the cable. There was a distant snap, a loud crash of the bed hitting the floor and Jacob was now sealed in. Alone and in the dark tunnel.
He stood there for a minute, hearing the loudening sound of machinery and crashing pistons. The chamber was freezing cold, Jacob could feel his breath freeze on the lungs.
“Keep calm, Jacob….just hold on and keep your bearings….this will be fine….it will be fine…”
Jacob shivered as he began to descend again. The ladder creaked and groaned under his weight. The walls turned from carved out rock to a more sturdy brick layering. The room became a bit brighter as Jacob climbed past lanterns and torches hanging from the walls. After a few more feet, Jacob felt the cool solid steel under his shoes. He let go of the ladder and looked about to his location.
He was in a hallway. A white hallway, blood stains dragged across the floor. The only source of light was from the far end of the hall. A sign above the circular ladder chute read:
“ENTRANCE 7: COMPOUND DISTILLING TO INNER CORE.
Jacob looked around and noted the blood on the floor. He felt a bit sick. Not because of the amount of it, but because he was getting used to see it. He gulped down the bile in the back of his throat and shuffled forward.
He leaned his head cautiously out the door, hoping to not to be caught by Montague. No one was around, aside from the massive machinery beside the catwalk.
The machinery seemed to be designed for pumping, hoses and tubes running between pistons and tanks. A smell of hot blood and carbon filled the room. The room was a bright orange from the mix of lanterns and furnaces.
Jacob noticed a set of large pipes, about the size of he was, piled along the catwalk. He also noticed the spinning set of cogwheels just beside the machinery. They seemed to be powering the pumps sending out the vile mixture across the machine.
Sensing an attempt of sabotage, Jacob gave the pipes a swift kick, knocking the bottom one of the pile free. The pipes clanged free and rolled down the catwalk, dropping from the side into the cogwheels.
At first, nothing. Jacob watched the pipes slide between the wildly-spinning cogs. He heard a distant rattle at first and then a loud explosion of steel grinding and churning. Following was the sound of pipes, clogged and full, bursting open and liquid splashing onto the floor
The cogs shifted a few times before crashing to a halt. Steam poured from the burst pipes. Control lights flashed off as he heard the sound of bubbling and gurgling from the damaged pumps.
Jacob knew he didn’t stop Montague just yet. He probably had more of the compound being pumped about the machine. This was just a mere pause in the machine. Jacob knew it could be fixed. It would get up soon again.
That is, unless Jacob got to work.
With a quick smile, Jacob ran over the bridging catwalk, hearing the distant clatter of damaged equipment falling away. He hurried out the door and stumbled down the corridor.
Jacob’s plan was to lure Montague out by damaging the vital parts of the machine. If it didn’t work, he could have at least dealt a severe blow to the plan.
The next room Jacob found was the Temperature Controlling. This was the part of the machine, Jacob reasoned, that made sure everything was at a safe condition. Too much heat would overheat the water in the boilers, causing them burst. Freezing conditions would freeze the machinery and severely damage the pumps and tanks within.
Jacob looked about the room. A large central chamber filled with regulator systems and pipes running across the ceiling. At the center of the chamber was a small control system, dotted with switching boards and valves, all designed to open the tanks and control what liquids came out.
“If I heat up this part of the machine, I could be able to damage most of the pressure systems. And boil myself alive in the process…”
Jacob really should control his snarky thoughts. It was that type of fear that would prevent him from stopping Montague.
He grabbed a valve in his hand and turned it slowly, hearing the sound of the tank doors opening. The heating liquid- a mixture of oil and a type of biofuel- would spill into the central furnaces and fuel them enough to heat the machine. Jacob turned the valve a bit faster, hearing the liquid slosh through the pipes.
The sound of the tank doors opening echoed through the chamber. The heating compound spilled out into the pipes and sloshed away over Jacob’s head.
He looked over at the opposite control panel. This one controlled the other complex of the machine. Jacob had an idea. If he froze one side of the machine, it could deal enough damage to at least stop the activity.
He flicked a few switches on the control board for good measure and began to turn the draining valve. The coolant compound was water and some of Montague’s old alchemy experiments mixed together and kept at an extremely cold temperature.
Jacob spun the valve as fast as he could, feeling the heat rise in the room. He heard the doors open and saw the coolant rushing through the pipes.
As soon as he did, he quickly ran out of the room, hurrying to get to the exit.
The heat was rising steadily. A thin mist covered the catwalks and walkways of the many hallways and spaces of the monstrous machine. Jacob ran though the corridors and tunnels, searching for any sign of an exit.
One of the boilers was filled with water as he past it. The water inside was becoming steam. The steam pressure was building slower and slower and slower until….
There was a horrific bang as the boilers burst open, spewing scalding hot steam. Cogs screeched to a stop as shrapnel jammed into them. Loud crashes of machinery bursting or stopping echoed through the room.
Jacob ran faster, sweat dripping from his brow. The machine was near death, a fatal blow to its heart! Ahead, Jacob could see a large marked door reading: “EXIT TO INNER CORE”
Jacob ran faster and faster, hearing the awful sounds of destruction behind him. He pushed open the door, greeted by a significantly cold blast of air to his face.
The door slid shut behind him as he stopped, staring at the scene around him.
Rivers of the portal compound were frozen in mid-stream as they lay in silent arches from their burst tanks and pipes. The air in the room was colder than he had expected. The coolant must have been fast-acting to keep the compound in stable condition.
Jacob smiled a bit, knowing he had now really dealt a crippling blow to the machine. He walked a bit forward, searching for any control rooms to contact help in or find an exit space to…
There was a brilliant flash of white that blinded Jacob for a minute or two. The sound of clanking machinery and a strange buzz of electricity. It seemed to be coming from the main hall. To where the inner core control was.
Jacob stumbled along the freezing room, avoiding any of the frozen compound that pooled around the catwalk. What was going on? Surely the machine would have been destroyed by now.
He followed the sounds through the bitter cold, until he arrived at a large steel door. The sounds echoed from within the large chamber. Jacob took a final breath and pulled open the door.
His mouth agape, his eyes wide and his heart stopped at what he saw.
Three huge steel pillars, each topped with a strange metal construct, stood around a large clockwork contraption. The pillars were radiating columns of white light into the tip of the contraption, causing a large ball of light to form. Pipes filled with the portal compound, possibly from excess tanks, surged into the pillars. Montague stood…no….flew over the contraption. He saw Jacob and gave a wicked sneer.
“Oh, Jacob….” He said, seemingly enchanted by his machine. “Did not your little rampage do anything?”
“Montague…” Jacob stepped forward, feeling a great weight of some sort lift off him. He felt a bit lighter. “What…what have you done…?”
“What I always dreamed of Jacob….” Montague hovered a bit higher. “Completed the impossible…”
“At what cost though? All those people…”
Montague sighed sadly and shook his head. “That is what separates us, Jacob…the needs to go farther…’
“What? What are you getting at, you murdering old…” Jacob stopped mid-sentence. The sphere of light let out a large pop and Jacob sailed back onto his knees.
“A brilliant, true scientist…goes to the greater edge of his morals and beliefs to achieve a goal….I took the path to complete my great work…”
“Murder is not the solution….”
‘Murder?! Jacob, it was a peaceful death! Do you think I crept into each house and bludgeoned them all to death with a club? No! I’m not some animal! They died together in only a few seconds! As a family! As one! No pain! No suffering! I simply just put them to a well-deserved rest…’
As he said this, the ball of light began to grow. Jacob could see odd shapes forming within. Montague smiled wider.
“Yes! Yes! It is opening! The doorway is opening!”
Jacob looked at Montague and sneered. This “man of ethics”, this “man of science…”….nothing but a mere murderer! A man who cast his clouds of death among the innocent people to achieve his own desires!
Jacob stood on his knees, ignoring the blinding light. The ball of light began to grow, the shapes more vivid. A black inky void appeared in the top of the portal, lit by only small gleams of light.
“Yes…I can see it….the stars…the skies…I can finally see it…” Montague cooed madly over his machine, reaching out to touch the ball of light.
Jacob ran over to him, in a burst of energy from within his chest. He slammed into Monatgue, sending him spiraling of his perch. The man crashed to the ground, leaving Jacob hovering in his place.
Jacob turned his head and gasped at what he could see. A large desert land….under a strange black-purple night, dotted with twinkling stars and galaxies. Two red moons sailed above him. It was beautiful…unlike anything he had ever seen.
Then, he felt a sharp pain in his arm. Blood trickling down his arm…
He glanced over, Montague holding a knife in his arm. His face was filled with a mad glare, a deep panic and a crazed joy all at once.
“Move, you damned fool! I am the one who shall see it finished!”
He pushed Jacob out of the way, sneering as he stood back on his perch. The portal was almost open now. The desert land was almost visible through the silky white curtain of light.
Jacob growled and, ignoring the pain in his fit of rage, took the knife from his shoulder. He ripped the handkerchief off from his neck and tied it snugly around the wound. He grabbed the knife and looked at Montague and the portal engine in front.
Jacob took the knife and tossed it, watching it sail straight into the machine’s gears. There was a low splintering screech as the gears and pistons jammed by the blade. The portal burst open in a curtain of light! Montague laughed and laughed as he was enveloped into the portal’s light.
The man felt warm for a minute as the light overtook him. He opened his eyes and saw the miles long desert and night around him. Monatgue smiled back at Jacob and laughed insanely. His eyes were bloodshot and wild, his brown hair becoming white as he stood in the deep sand.
“It’s beautiful, Jacob! Everything I have ever done has lead up to this! It’s mine! All mine!”
Then, there was a low screech and the portal light began to fade. Jacob could see the portal closing around him. Montague didn’t.
With one last leap of energy, Jacob leapt out from the portal, landing on his knees on the chamber floor below. The portal engine sparked and sputtered as it rattled and clanked apart.
Montague’s laugh, shrill and mad, echoed throughout the chamber. The portal light began to flash wildly on and off! Electric currents shot out of the portal, striking machinery and cables and pipes in all directions! Explosions roared throughout the machine. Clattering and banging and roaring from every opening!
Jacob gulped and ran to the ladder at the side of the chamber, looking back to see Montague standing at the edge of the portal.
His eyes were now bloodshot red. His hair now a brilliant white. His body stretched and warped into a tall, limbering creature. His laugh was now louder and shriller. The portal flashed open and closed, Montague changing with every time.
Jacob began to climb the ladder, hearing the machine collapse around him. He was halfway up when the blinding light over took him.
The portal finally collapsed. In a wave of white light and a roar of thunder, it shut. As it shut, it fired off a great ball of energy across the chamber. Machinery burst into flames, the pillars surrounding the portal collapsed, spewing the dangerous compound. Montague’s laughter was replaced by the screech of metal.
As Jacob felt the blinding light overtake his senses, he could swear he could feel the dust of the desert blow across his face.
“Jacob? ‘Ey, lad?”
Jacob woke up, noticing the two people standing over his cot.
It was Henry and a sailor from the Navy. Both were looking at him in confused, worried manner.
“Wh…Where am I?”
Henry cracked a smile. “The Presidential Suite back at the White House, lad” he said before bursting into laughter. The sailor simply rolled his eyes and looked sharply at Henry.
“You’re back on the Mary Belle, Jacob” Henry smiled and sat down on the chair. “We picked you up not only two hours ago”
The sailor spoke up, looking directly at Jacob. “We found you on the beach of Redwood Island after some of the fishermen saw an explosion happen during the night. My men and I came to investigate and get any survivors and so far, you are the only one…”
Jacob nodded and looked down. “No sign of that Montague fellow?”
“Afraid not. In fact, we found his entire manor up in flames when we got there”
Henry shrugged and whispered to Jacob. “Told you that man was trouble…”
Jacob didn’t answer. He kept silent.
“Do you mind if we question you? After you are done healing, of course” The man nodded and adjusted his cap. “Maybe you could give us some details on what happened over the past days…”
Jacob nodded quickly. “Yes! I can give you what I can though…”
The two men nodded, Henry pouring a tin cup of coffee for Jacob.
“Drink this, Jacob. It will perk your spirits a bit…”
“Thank you Henry….can you two please let me rest? My head is starting to affect me…”
“Of course’ The two men got up and walked out of the cabin. Through the crack of the door, Jacob could see the smoking remains of Redwood Island, thick black clouds of smoke loomed over the island.
As soon as the door closed, Jacob climbed out of bed and walked slowly over to the table. His knapsack was there, closed with a leather buckle. He opened it and sighed.
He took out a large brown book, stuffed with notes and files. It was one of Montague’s old research journals. Jacob had taken it during his first days there, hoping to read from it. He gingerly opened the book and flipped through.
The pages were stained with splotches of blood. Thick red globes of the fluid coated pages and notes like spilled ink. Word were covered entirely, charts and drawings gone.
At the end of the book was a statement that Jacob now understood.
“IT IS OUR MOST NOBLE DUTY TO GIVE OURSELVES TO THE NAME OF SCIENTIFC ADVANCEMENT. NO MATTER AT WHAT COST”
Jacob sighed and closed the book, limping over to the furnace.
Jacob was going to keep the world from finding this. No matter how great the project seemed, it was twisted and vile. Science wasn’t just about greed and fame and recognition. It was about furthering humanity for the better.
But, at one point, Montague had lost sight of that, Jacob thought to himself. A shame. A real damned shame.
He opened the furnace door and slid the book inside, watching the cover and pages ignite on the hot coals. The book fell inside and became aflame, burning quickly inside the cast iron stove.
Drops of scarlet red fell from the pages, landing on Jacob’s shoes.
But he didn’t care anymore.